I remember once during a parish mission I was leading, that a fine young man was very involved in the preparation week and then came to the first of the big evening services of the mission. But then he never came back for the rest of the week, and I missed him. It was only at the end of the mission fortnight that I met his father who explained that his son had heard God speaking to him through the mission and telling him to be His priest. The good young chap had set his sights on a particular career and marriage, and frankly – he ran away. He didn’t want to face what God was saying to him in his heart.
Some years ago I wrote a poem called “God Doesn’t Stand at the Crossroads”:
God Doesn’t Stand at the Crossroads
What I tried to express in this poem, and it is pertinent to my life, is that, as we journey through our lives we often face decisions, sometimes small but sometimes major, and these decision moments can be like coming to a crossroads or a junction. We can rarely stand still – we usually have to go one way or the other. And having chosen a certain route, and travelled a distance, we may look back and wonder… did I take the right path?
So often, after we have committed to a particular direction, we receive new information and insights that we just didn’t have back then at the crossroads, and we all know about hindsight – how we can condemn ourselves unjustly for not knowing then what we know now.
Often times, our decisions will be right and appropriate for our stage in life, but what do we do when we begin to realise that we in fact took a wrong direction? This wrong direction may not necessarily bring in sin and guilt – after all, none of us has a crystal ball and we can sometimes only hope for the best and even sometimes change direction within our choices. And of course sometimes there is no going back…
Sometimes though, we come to realise that we did take a wrong turn. This wrong turn can be chosen through selfishness, immaturity or peer pressure, or through the complexities of life, etc. But equally we may conclude that we purposely (consciously?) blocked certain facts and chose what seemed to us to be the most appealing (most convenient?) option.
And what about God? I believe that God has a clear purpose for our lives – a purpose that will absolutely be the best for us and for others. A purpose which nonetheless may not be an easy path, and may actually involve the Cross. Whatever path God may want us to follow – our true vocation – He in no way can force us to follow this ‘best path’. He can only hope that we make the effort to discern His will and that other people are there to guide us.
What then can we say when it becomes clear that we effectively dodged His will and purposely took a ‘wrong’ path? Does God, so to speak, stand back at the decision point implacably waiting for us to crawl back? I think Jesus’ story of the Prodigal Son makes it very clear that while God cannot prevent or force our path He waits, waits patiently, even impatiently, but with ready forgiveness for when we come to our senses. And if, unlike the Prodigal Son, we cannot realistically retrace our steps, I think God is actually always at our side, ever ready to embrace us with His unconditional love. I think God actually adjusts His will and accepts our ‘now’ and graces us with a ‘new beginning’.
I wonder if that young man did indeed get married and reject what appeared to be God’s will for him? Maybe, maybe not. But one thing is clear – God loves him regardless and is with him always. After all, there is nothing we can do to stop God loving us,